Hollywood goes to the devil with lineup of satanic movies

Friday, October 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Hollywood is playing devil's advocate. With Halloween approaching, a rush of films starring the Prince of Darkness is hitting theaters, from apocalyptic thrillers to lighthearted romps.

Harold Ramis, director and co-writer of the comedy ``Bedazzled,'' which opens Friday, said the current crop of satanic flicks may be a carryover from the millennium fever last year, when such end-of-the-world movies as ``End of Days'' and ``Stigmata'' came out.

Or it could just be coincidence.

``It's not like we call each other up and ask what devil movie is going to be hot this year,'' said Ramis, who has directed ``Analyze This'' and ``Groundhog Day.''

``Bedazzled'' stars Brendan Fraser as a techno-nerd who strikes a deal with a voluptuous Satan (Elizabeth Hurley) for wealth, power and the love of a beautiful co-worker. The movie is a remake of the 1960s comedy starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Adam Sandler then stars as the devil's dimwitted son in ``Little Nicky,'' debuting Nov. 10. The movie co-stars Harvey Keitel as the devil, Rodney Dangerfield as Grandpa Lucifer and Patricia Arquette, who starred in ``Stigmata.''

``We were very determined to come out before the Adam Sandler movie. We didn't want to be the second devil comedy this year,'' Ramis joked.

Then there's ``Lost Souls,'' which opened last Friday _ it had been scheduled for release last year but was delayed because of the crowded market, the filmmakers say. The movie stars Winona Ryder as a zealot on a crusade to convince a non-believer (Ben Chaplin) that he has been chosen as host for the earthly incarnation of Satan.

Other devilish fare: The new cut of ``The Exorcist,'' featuring Linda Blair as that head-spinning, soup-spewing girl possessed by Satan, came out last month and has exceeded box-office expectations. And the 1970s flick ``The Omen'' recently came out in a DVD box set with its three sequels.

On top of the new crop of devil movies, the horror sequel ``Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2'' debuts next week, while ``Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000'' arrives in December.

Moviegoers' appetite for all things hellish seems strong. Distributor Warner Bros. expanded ``The Exorcist'' last week to 1,655 theaters, up about one-third, pushing the reissue's gross to a healthy $30.5 million in just over three weeks.

And despite generally poor reviews, ``Lost Souls'' managed to open as last weekend's No. 3 movie, grossing $8 million and easily outpacing three other new movies.

``People are endlessly fascinated with questions of good and evil,'' said Nina Sadowsky, producing partner of Meg Ryan, whose Prufrock Pictures made ``Lost Souls.''

``It's like Winona's character says in the movie: If you're so sure of one, doesn't that mean you have to be sure of the other? If people want to believe in God, a higher power that is good, doesn't it follow that you have to believe in a higher power that is evil? I think that's the core concept of these movies.''